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Joplin, Missouri Death Toll Rises, Teams Search As Bad Weather Looms

Members of Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team search a tornado-damaged Home Depot store in Joplin, Mo. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. i i

Members of Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team search a tornado-damaged Home Depot store in Joplin, Mo. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. Jeff Roberson/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Roberson/AP
Members of Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team search a tornado-damaged Home Depot store in Joplin, Mo. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

Members of Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team search a tornado-damaged Home Depot store in Joplin, Mo. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

Jeff Roberson/AP

Disaster officials in Joplin, Missouri say they've completed the first of four planned searches through debris and wreckage left by Sunday night's tornado. Missouri state officials say the death toll in Jasper County is now 117 people. There's no estimate on how many people are still missing but the search for survivors has intensified.

Joplin City Fire Chief Mitch Randles says teams have finished the first rapid sweep for tornado survivors. He says search crews are getting reports of cries for help underneath rubble, but he says many of these reports turn out to be false.

He cited two 'areas of concentration' that searchers will next target. These are a Joplin retail district where the twister blasted through the Home Depot and the WalMart, and an apartment complex a few blocks away, where many people were at home when the storm burst on them.

The news conference was held outdoors in the best weather Joplin has seen in 48 hours, according to Chief Randles. Search and rescue teams can't lose any more time - the National Weather Service warns this evening, the region around Joplin could see damaging wind gusts, hail the size of baseballs and more tornadoes.

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